City Warns Struggling Schools Against Spending

Friday, January 06, 2012 - 04:21 PM

City officials on Thursday told principals of schools in a suspended federal grant program not to spend any more of the money they were given for school improvements until problems with the grants are resolved.

Worth roughly $60 million, the federal grants have been in jeopardy since late December, when negotiations over a new teacher evaluation system between the city's Department of Education and the teachers union broke down.

Without an agreement on a new system, the state education commissioner John B. King Jr. suspended the program, leaving 33 schools wondering what would happen to the personnel and programs they had paid for, or were on the cusp of purchasing.

At first, city officials urged principals to proceed with business as usual, but in an e-mail to principals on Thursday, Deputy Chancellor Marc Sternberg sounded a less optimistic note, telling them not to commit any more money to projects the grant was supposed to cover.

"Effective tomorrow, and until further notice, schools should not incur any new expenditures using their SIG funds that are not recurring costs already scheduled," he wrote.

The city's Department of Education has given the 33 schools roughly $40 million this year, with the expectation that the state would reimburse them with federal grant money. But with the grant money in limbo, it is unclear how much the city will be able to recover.

Mr. Sternberg wrote that money that principals have already set aside to pay for experienced teachers and outside management organizations can still be used.

State education officials have said it is likely they will able to reimburse the city for money that schools spent between September and Dec. 31, when talks between the city and teachers union broke down.

From Mr. Sternberg's e-mail:

Regarding funding, please be advised of the following:

Note that recurring costs already scheduled in Galaxy, such as personnel (including Master and Turnaround teachers) and fees to EPOs for Restart schools, should remain in place until further notice.

Effective tomorrow, and until further notice, schools should not incur any new expenditures using their SIG funds that are not recurring costs already scheduled.

As noted, our conversation with the State about the status of the SIG funding is ongoing. Commissioner King yesterday announced a 30-day window for us to seek a resolution. We will keep you updated as this conversation evolves.


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